KOTA KINABALU: Health officials were screening all foreign arrivals at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport on Friday as part of preventive measures following the first case of A(H7N9) virus infection in Sabah.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Masidi Manjun urged the public not to panic, as the H7N9 is not transmittable from humans.
“Health Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said earlier that the possibility of a human-to-human transmission of the H7N9 virus is remote,” he told The Star.
Masidi said humans would only get this virus from birds including chickens.
“In this case, the source is in China, not from the Chinese visitor who was in Sandakan before coming to Kota Kinabalu,” he said, adding that people should be more worried about going to China.
The 67-year-old woman infected by the avian flu had reportedly complained of fever, cough, body aches and fatigue four days before her arrival in Kuala Lumpur from Guangdong on Feb 3.
She took off to Sandakan, Sabah, the next day before moving on to Kota Kinabalu on Feb 6. The woman was referred to a private hospital in Kota Kinabalu on Feb 7 and (after two screenings) on Feb 11, the sample showed positive results for H7N9. She is currently in stable condition.
Masidi also urged the public to stop speculating about the case as it would only cause panic.
“You have to understand what this virus is about and how it spreads before making a speculation,” he said.
Health Department Director Dr Christina Rundi said among preventive actions to be taken include stepping up checks for influenza in the state, increasing the number of sentinel locations in Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu from the present eight to 12, and working with travel agencies.
Dr Christina said in a statement that travel agencies had been urged to advise their customers from avian influenza-hit countries to postpone their trips.
Tourists with respiratory problems are urged to seek immediate treatment at their nearest health facility while laboratory capacity in Sabah to test H7N9 has also been strengthened.